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Fear of Potty Leads to Constipation

Anxiety in toddlers who are toilet training linked to condition

MONDAY, Oct. 13, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Children with functional constipation experience much more anxiety about toileting behavior than other children, but don't display significant general anxiety.

So says a study to be presented Oct. 13 at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Baltimore.

Functional constipation refers to the presence of symptoms of constipation in the absence of known causes. It's believed that anxiety specific to toileting behavior plays an important role in the development and continuation of constipation in children.

In this study, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation department of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition studied 98 children (51 boys and 47 girls) between the ages of 6 and 18. The researchers wanted to determine whether children with functional constipation have more defecation anxiety than children who don't experience constipation.

Through self-reports by the children and parental reports, the researchers found children with functional constipation had much greater anxiety specific to toileting behavior than children without constipation.

But the researchers observed that the children with constipation didn't show clinical signs of general anxiety.

Constipation is the chief complaint in 3 percent of pediatric outpatient visits and 10 percent to 25 percent of pediatric gastroenterology visits. The researchers suggest parents of children with chronic constipation should take their children to a pediatrician to rule out any medical causes.

The researches also suggest parents should talk to their pediatrician about defecation anxiety if a child seems to be withholding stool, shows vigorous resistance to using the toilet, or becomes tearful at the urge to use the toilet.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about children and toileting behavior.

SOURCE: American College of Gastroenterology, news release, Oct. 13, 2003
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